For better or worse, I consider myself a fairly principled person. That is, I’ve chosen to live my life in a way that reflects my convictions. From what I eat to how I vote to what I spend money on, I consider how those choices impact me, those around me, and the world as a whole. I consider what my actions and choices say about me as a person, and take great care to ensure I like who that person is. Ethics are important. Convictions mean something.
If you know me in person you know this to be true. It’s not about changing the world, or even changing anyone else’s mind, it’s about being comfortable with my own choices. It doesn’t make life particularly easy, but I sleep really well at night.
When it comes to the internet, I’ve always tried to have my online presence reflect my offline presence. I frequently speak out in favor of things I support, and against those I don’t. But I hadn’t considered that where that online presence was also said something about me.
I’ve known that Facebook, the company, doesn’t line up with my politics for a while and have written about (almost 2 years ago) how uncomfortable the site makes me feel. I’ve justified keeping an account there for a variety of reasons – but they are really just excuses. I was already on the site, so it was easier to stay. In every other part of my life I consider inaction to be complacent support. Why was it so easy to overlook?
Besides, everyone else was doing it. And yes, that has to be one of the worst excuses in the history of crappy justifications. And there I was using it.
Facebook has shown no respect for its users privacy. The site notoriously makes it difficult to understand who you are sharing what with, and has been known to reset privacy settings to defaults without notifying users. Defaults which share everything. Facebook tracks your usage of the web and knows pretty much everything else about your life. Facebook supports CISPA, and why wouldn’t they? It gives them a free pass to give your data to anyone. SOPA and PIPA didn’t. A service that knows everything about you, even things you don’t want it to, supports legislation that would allow it to give anyone that information without recourse – sounds great doesn’t it?
Facebook wants you to feel that the web is dangerous and the only safe place for you is on Facebook, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The list goes on and on.
I don’t know exactly how long ago I started talking about quitting Facebook, but it’s been a long time. But I keep going back and forth. It’s easy. It’s everywhere. It comes up in random conversation all the time. With over 845 million users that’s not surprising. It’s almost harder to not use it, right? I mean, it doesn’t cost anything, and even if you don’t use it, it doesn’t hurt to just keep an account there for whatever may come up, right? That has been my justification, until now at least.
My friend Peter Rojas said something the other day that felt like a punch in the gut.
He wrote on twitter “Most people disagree, but I think it’s important to not use services that you have issues with, even if they are free.”
I knew he was right.
Usage is implied consent. Usage is passive support.
I don’t consent to this and I can’t support it. Facebook is bad for the web, and it’s bad for people. I can’t keep ignoring that.
I made the decision and made a post on my account that I’d be leaving. It got a lot of “likes.” I got the feeling that many more people wanted to leave too, but didn’t know how they would get by without it. They felt trapped. Just like I had.
Even quitting is made as difficult as possible. Look at Facebook’s own FAQ page about deleting your account. Sort past all the guilt tripping and choose the “deactivate” option (which keeps your account active, just on ice) and you are confronted with pictures of your friends and messages saying how much they will miss you. Because, obviously, without Facebook you’d have no way to contact your friends. Or that’s the myth they want you to believe. Choose the “delete” option and you are informed that if at any time in the next 14 days you log back in (which includes any apps you’ve authorized) then your account just goes into deactivated status. If you make it through all of that, and clear the 14 days, it’s still not clear if they ever delete anything. That is scary. Why would I want to keep feeding into that? How could I continue to passively condone that?
And that’s kind of what this boils down to. I can’t argue I’m against all of these behaviors, and keep an account there just for the hell of it. So I’m done. I’m out.
This isn’t a rallying cry, it’s simply me doing what I know is the right thing to do.